The original Galaxy Grand Duos was a blockbuster model for Samsung in emerging markets like India. When a phone model is successful, it is natural for the company to follow-up with a successor with a bumped up specs and features. So we have Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 featuring a slightly larger display with better resolution, quad-core processor along with slew of new software tweaks.
For some reason, Samsung has shed the Duos, so the new Grand is simply called Galaxy Grand 2, though it still comes with dual-SIM support and flashes the Duos logo on the top right of the device.
The box comes with the device, 2600 mAh battery, travel charger, data cable, earphone, ear silicone caps and quick start guide. There is no free flip case included this time unlike older Galaxy Grand that comes bundled with a free flip cover.
Design, look and feel & Specs
The design language of Samsung mobiles are increasingly very similar and familiar and Galaxy Grand 2 is no different. The front view atleast gives no indication of anything new when kept side by side the older model. Galaxy Grand 2 is molded on the same lines of Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Mega with a slightly little more squared off edges rather than the more curved edges of the predecessor.
There is the same dollops of Chrome garnishes around the sides and the earpiece. And it sports like we mentioned in the begining, the Duos logo above the screen.
There is the Samsung’s familiar placement of slightly raised Home button flanked by capacitive back and menu buttons that gives a warm blue glow when tapped. The power button on the right, the volume key on the left, a headset jack on the top and a Micro-USB port for charging on the bottom completes the standard Samsung placement of keys and ports.
Instead of the expensive AMOLED display, Samsung has opted for a TFT LCD screen it used in the original Grand for this refreshed Grand’s 5.25-inch display. The resolution has been upped to 720×1280 pixels, a good push ahead, it might be recalled the earlier Grand came with a 480×800 pixel resolutions. Though the display did not give that slightly saturated eye-poping visuals we have used to in Samsung’s AMOLED displays, it still gives a crisp and pleasant view.
Cast your eyes on the rear and you will note and feel the new skin. The new Galaxy Grand comes with the faux-leather panel complete with threaded design similar to Galaxy Note 3. It gives a better grip and feel while holding and does not feel plasticky.
Peel off the back panel and it reveals the two SIM slots and a microSD card slot. There is also a beefier 2600mAh battery to give a good battery juice. You can slot in two micro-SIM and I found out that the second SIM-slot can accommodate a nano-SIM too. The microSD card slot sits on top of the primary SIM slot.
On the technicalities, the device is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz and stitched to a 1.5 GB RAM and Adreno 305 GPU. This is a better configuration compared to the MediaTek offerings from most phones in Grand’s league. The internal storage is a 8GB while it can be expanded up to 64GB using a microSD card.
UI and features
Out of the box, the Galaxy Grand 2 runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS but completely overhauled by TouchWiz UI leaving almost no trace of the stock Android underlay.
The lock screen comes alive with a burst of light and an animated lens flare to unlock. If you find it irritating or feel it would drain the battery, you can go to the lock-screen setting and disable the effects.
If you have been using Samsung devices for sometime, the UI is very familiar. There are five home screens by default and you can add two more to it.
Swipe up a finger on the home screen from the bottom of the screen and it opens Samsung’s My Magazine app. The app sorts out beautifully the news feeds, your personal updates including social updates. It looks more inspired by Flipboard and HTC’s Buzzfeed feature. With Flipboard more popular and also accessible by default on one of the scrollable home screen, I wonder how many would use the My Magazine app.
With more apps finding way into the Android with default apps from Google and Samsung into the device, to de-clutter the screen there are buckets where you find default apps from Samsung, Google put into it for easy access.
Notification panel has a list of toggle buttons that gives quick access to stuffs like WiFi, GPS, Sound, Screen rotation, Bluetooth, Mobile data, blocking mode, Power saving, Multi Window, Wi-Fi Hotspot etc. When you click top right icon on top next to the setting on the notification panel, it opens up complete list of accessible icons. The notification panel also has a brightness control slider and if music is playing it shows the playback controls.
Like most other mid and top-end Samsung galaxy devices, Galaxy Grand 2 also enables Multi windows so you can work with multiple windows at a time. Once you toggle on them multi windows option on the notification panel or in the settings, pressing the back button and a long pause opens the multi-windows option. It shows a list of apps that can be worked simultaneously.
For those who love to command by voice, S-Voice is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri. S-Voice can be activated by double tapping the home button. From there, you can either say “Hi Galaxy” or tap the button on the screen to start giving voice commands. There are quiet a long list of things you can do by voice including making calls, sending text messages, adding calendar events, launching apps, setting alarms and reminders, get the news read out, searching the web etc.
Samsung App store and Samsung Hub
There is always a choice a plenty when it comes to Samsung Galaxy smartphones be it in features, tweaks, customization or apps. If Google Play is not enough for apps, Samsung has included its own Samsung App store. The company also has love to flaunt its own Music and Video apps alongside the Google’s media apps. To its credit, they work well too inspite of it duplicating and consuming extra space.
Then there is Samsung Hub which offers videos, books, games and learning material. It requires the individual hubs to be installed. You can pick from a range of movies, books, games and other learning materials some of which are free while most of them has to be purchased. The catalogue includes some of the recent Bollywood releases as well as Hollywood fares.
The learning Hub has a mix of materials including TED videos, recipe books, nursery rhymes and children books and reference and tutorials. Again the contents are mix of free and paid.
More features, add-ons and modes
Samsung’s love for giving more controls, tweaks and customization continues literally in every screen. In case you find the Home screen heavily bloated, you can opt for Easy mode, that offers a very simplistic home screen with minimum bells and whistles with simpler layout and bigger icons.
Then there is a Blocking mode which when enabled allows you to block incoming calls, notifications and disable alarm and timer along with an option for adding allowed contacts that would be barred from being blocked. This would be very handy when you are in a meeting or when you don’t want to be disturbed but still allow certain contacts from reaching out to you. Additionally you can also set time for the feature to be activated.
There is also a Hands-free mode that would read out your incoming calls, messages, schedules. So next time when you are driving or hands messed up, you can set the phone to read out for you.
A big phone can be daunting for some for one-handed handling while messaging or using apps like calculator and for the same reason Samsung has included a One-handed operation feature that would push the keyboard to left or right side of the phone for easy use with one-hand.
Are we done yet? No not before mentioning the other motion, palm and smart features like Mute/Pause the screen placing the motion gestures, taking screen shots which I find to be very useful for my reviews by just swiping the palm across the screen and also mute or pause the music by covering the phone with palm, the smart feature includes Smart stay which keeps the screen on by detecting your eye movement. It must be noted that the higher end devices has more exhaustive list of smart features than the one mentioned here.
Galaxy Grand 2 Camera
The pixel count almost remain the same when compared to the original, so we have a 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.9-megapixel front camera. The earlier model came with in fact a 2-megapixel front camera but the small drop in the pixel count will not make much of a difference.
Like most smartphones especially Samsung series, the daylight shots are commendable with rich detailing and crispiness. The selfies can also look good on the front camera. Video is captured at 720p and gives a good performance. On low light, the results suffer like with most smartphone cameras. Overall, I am satisfied with the Galaxy Grand 2 performance in this segment.
When a smartphone gets a refresh, first obvious list of improvements would be met to the camera department features. When you go to the camera mode, a notable addition is the large circular Mode button which lists out the 10 camera modes. The Sound and Shot feature where we can record a 10 second audio snippet to a picture makes an entry to Grand 2 camera mode. Then there are other modes like Beauty face, Best Face, Panaroma, Continuous shots etc.
With Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor ticking and a 1.5GB of RAM giving a shoulder, at any time Galaxy Grand 2 is expected to perform well and be robust than the Mediatek-lugging rival models in the segment. Galaxy Grand 2 scored pretty well in the benchmarks pitted against its rivals.
The device has a very good viewing angle. With a big screen, people look for good video and gaming experience in the device and Grand 2 gives a decent audio and video playback. 720p videos run smoothly while there was a slight stuttering while playing the 1080p videos. The device tends to slightly heat up when playing heavy games like Ashapalt, Frontline commando etc.
There is not much lag or bugs otherwise during the brief period we handled the device and it worked like a charm.
The final word
When the original Grand hit the market, there was less competition for Samsung in the big phone market. In fact it was Samsung who turned large-display smartphones a money-spinner and gave the segment a big boost. It was the time when the big-screened Galaxy Note was a head turner and Galaxy Grand whetted the appetite of the mid-segment consumer’s crave for bigger display at a lesser price.
When the follow-up of Galaxy Grand hits the market, many things have changed. Almost every smartphone maker has a presence in 5-inch display bracket and quad-core, Full HD has become a common parlance in this segment. Competition is fierce in the Rs 17,000-22,000 product category and Galaxy Grand 2 priced on the top-cream of the segment have it’s task cut and a serious battle ahead to win the consumers. Still what might work for Samsung is it’s meticulously build brand presence helped by aggressive marketing blitzkrieg and retail and service presence spread across the country. To put it simply, Samsung has a brand weight, a pleasing design, over dose of features and UI tricks to make Galaxy Grand 2 a complete package in this segment.